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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Genital Herpes and Public Health
Corey, Lawrence; Handsfield, H. Hunter
February 16, 2000
Journal of the American Medical Association (02/09/00) Vol.

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex viruses (HSV) and is one of the three most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States. The disease affects people chiefly between the ages of 15 and 40. One problem related to the high number of HSV infections is that the symptoms are unrecognized and mild infections often do not attract medical attention. Most symptoms include painless ulcers, dysuria, or discharge from the genitals. Many infected people do not get lesions and are unaware of the infection, and thus are at risk of unknowingly transmitting the disease. Neonatal herpes is the most serious problem associated with the infection, but the mother can be treated. Genital ulcers also increase HIV transmission, and HSV infection has been implicated in HIV transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's advisory panel has recommended type-specific testing for HSV, and better serologic tests are now available. Clinicians can use viral culture to detect HSV when diagnosing genital ulcer disease. Patients should also be counseled to avoid HSV transmission during sex by using condoms.